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Temple of Zeus at Olympia

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Statue of Zeus on an ancient coin

The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was the most imposing structure at Olympia in Ancient Greece. Olympia was the site of the Ancient Olympic Games. The temple was built between 472 and 456 BC by the architect Libon. Carved metopes depict the Labors of Herakles. The pediments depict the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs and Pelops’s chariot race against Oinomaos for the hand of Hippodamia. These sculptures are attributed to the "Olympia Master" and his studio.

The Temple of Zeus was the very model of the fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order. The temple housed a 13 m (43 ft) high statue of Zeus by Phidias. This statue was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The statue was probably carried to Byzantium and eventually destroyed by fire. In 426 AD, Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the temple and the sanctuary at Olympia. Earthquakes in 522 and 551 devastated the ruins. The Temple of Zeus was partially buried.

Metope depicting Herakles and the Cretan Bull from the Temple of Zeus

The long forgotten site was identified in 1766. In 1829 a French team partially excavated the Temple of Zeus, taking several fragments of the pediments to the Musée du Louvre. Systematic excavation began in 1875, under the direction the German Archaeological Institute, and has continued, with some interruptions, to the present time.


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